TL;DR: Manifold Markets is:
- A new prediction market platform
- Where anyone can ask questions and resolve them
- With grants from Scott Alexander and Paul Christiano
We started with a crazy new twist on prediction markets. You come up with a question for traders to predict, and then decide the outcome yourself.
For example, you could create a market on “Will my date with [X] go well?” Anyone can bet on it, and the bets create a forecast on the chance your date goes well. After the date is over, you get to judge the result and reward the traders who picked the correct side.
There are so many ways for this mechanism to go wrong. The creator of the market can be dishonest in deciding the outcome, or you may just disagree with their resolution, with no recourse.
Nevertheless, we pitched user-created prediction markets in a grant proposal to the blog Astral Codex, without having any previous background in prediction markets, and somehow we won!
It’s been an exciting two months of us hacking away to realize this idea, and today, we’re happy to announce the official launch of Manifold Markets! We’ve gotten so much support from early users who are just as passionate about prediction markets as we are.
You might ask: Is there a reason to create a prediction market, and not a Twitter poll? Are outcomes really that different from a simple person-by-person vote?
Yes, I believe so. The magic driving prediction markets is accountability. When wagering a scarce currency, those proven right live on to make future bets, whereas those with less-savvy bets have their influence diminished. Prediction markets succeed because they reward accuracy, and that makes all the difference!
Our goal is to make prediction markets an order of magnitude easier for you to create and share. It should be as frictionless as a Twitter poll. As part of that philosophy, we’re launching with a play money currency, which we believe is just as fun and predictive.
We’ve already built up a passionate community of predictors and market creators, including writers like Richard Hanania and James Medlock, who have predicted everything from CDC recommendations to newsletter subscriptions to fatal shark attacks.
There’s so much unexplored space to ask questions and get valuable forecasts. For example, with conditional markets, you can create several related markets that help you make a choice based on which has the highest likelihood of success!
I’m excited to see what you all come up with. Go forth, create questions, trade on them, and predict the future!
- James from Manifold, along with cofounders Stephen and Austin
So how is Manifold different than Metaculus, Kalshi, PredictIt, etc.?
1. Anyone can come onboard and create a market
Existing prediction markets are very centralized; a core team of moderators decide what questions to ask. Occasionally they’ll solicit user suggestions, but as Scott Alexander put it:
Imagine if you could only tweet by emailing Jack Dorsey and convincing him that your comment was a good thing to have on Twitter. Even if Jack had good judgment and approved most requests, this would be a long way from the limbic system < — > Send Tweet loop that real Twitter users know and love.
Manifold aims to be Twitter for prediction markets!
2. The market creator decides how the market resolves
Existing markets focus hard on having objective resolution criteria. This means that the questions people pose are very narrowly focused — think of the “drunk looking under the streetlights because that’s where it’s brightest.”
Instead, Manifold allows market creators to use their own judgement on how a market ought to be resolved. So a question like “Will I enjoy moving to Miami” is fair game! Of course, there’s a time and place for having an objective resolution mechanism. We believe putting one individual in charge simplifies the resolution process enormously even for more objective questions.
3. Play money - it’s free to join and trade
To get started in other prediction markets, you have to pull out your credit card and put down some real money to get started. This means that people put their money where their mouths are, but also adds real friction in getting started. With Manifold, you can start trading as soon as you sign in! As long as there’s a subset of players trading to win, we believe the market mechanism will lead to accurate forecasts.
I thought you were already public - why a launch now?
Our team subscribes to the “always be shipping” philosophy of product development. In the last two months, we’ve gone from “hm, that would be cool” to the entire platform you see today, iterating and getting community feedback at each step. But we haven’t yet taken the time to step back and announce our work to the world.
So think of this launch as a Schelling point, a coordinated time to come check out our site. It’s also our statement that Manifold is now polished enough for general public usage. Some of our newest additions in the last month:
- Communities that identify markets tailored to your interests
- Mobile-optimized experience for creating and browsing markets
- Inline conversations with other market participants
If you’ve been curious about what Manifold offers, now’s the best time to try it out.
What’s next for Manifold?
We’ll continue to push the edge in forecasting by making prediction markets ubiquitous. We have a lot of improvements planned for our play money site, including tournaments with cash prizes! And you may (not) be surprised to hear that we’re planning an entry into the crypto space... Subscribe for updates in the months ahead!
We’ve received help in the form of feedback, suggestions, and monetary support from truly too many to name — but we’ll try anyways.
To our friends and family (Lawrence, Jack, Lynelle, Adi, James, John, Peter, Ida, Luke, Eric, Nick, Sinclair, and Bruce): thanks for your encouragement while putting up with our crappy prototypes!
To the forecasters we’ve spoken with (Zvi, Nuño, Lars, Richard, Nikos, Tamuz, Nathan, Ege, gbear605, alwaysrinse, Tetraspace, David, Ozzie, Trevor and Eli): thanks for gifting us with your time, attention, and advice. That’s real precious stuff!
To our funders and sponsors (Scott, Paul, Lars, Duncan, Jack, Andy, Tristan, Nathan, Luca, and Alexander): thanks for taking a bet on us, for the ultimate vote of confidence, for putting your money where your mouth is!
And of course, a massive thanks to all the market creators and traders on Manifold — without you, there would be no markets~
Sign up for Manifold here, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions!